Being Thankful in Grief
My daughter and I were the best of friends. People who didn’t know us often thought we were sisters, because of our cheerful camaraderie. She was an only child, and perhaps, growing up as an army family with my husband often away for extended periods, our bond as a mother and daughter grew uncommonly close. All the more reason why her passing cut so incredibly deep.
2013 was a rough year. Health problems emerged for which we never did find the cause, but she began having seizures. There were financial hardships. Then, she and her husband separated. As 2014 began, we looked forward to a more hope-filled and brighter year. We had just celebrated her 36th birthday. And then, suddenly, she was gone.
When tragedies happen, everyone wants to know why. Why did this happen? I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” Life is not always sunny and happy and wonderful. Sometimes, there’s pain. Jesus said himself troubles would come, BUT not to despair. He overcame, so we could be overcomers.
That’s the kind of promise I cling to in my heartbreak. I am thankful for the overcoming grace of God which sustains us, even in this. I am thankful for God’s loving arms which I cling to in my tears. I’m thankful for my relationship with God, and for knowing, before this ever happened, that God is good and kind and loving. He cares, and He carries our grief.
I am thankful for many things. I’m thankful she doesn’t have seizures anymore, and she is completely whole and well. I’m thankful that the cares and heartaches of this world which were such a burden in the last year of her life, no longer plague her. I know she is joyful in the presence of God.
I’m thankful for all the wonderful years of her life we had together. Such good memories to cherish! I might have been childless, otherwise. She was our miracle. I’m thankful for God blessing us with her and for every year of her life.
I’m thankful for what a blessing she was to others. She was a gifted teacher and touched more lives than she even knew. People still come up to us and share anecdotes of ways she ministered to them or their child. I am thankful for her gifts and talents and the precious legacy she left to us.
I had sometimes thought about my daughter’s eventual grief when she would face losing her father and me. I would rather bear this grief for her than that she should have to bear it for us. I’m thankful she won’t have to grieve for us someday.
I’m thankful for this taste of grief, bitter as it is, because I’ve grown so much in ways I might not have otherwise. I never realized how many people are walking through a grief journey of their own. Before, I might have felt compassion, but now, I know what it’s like. It’s true that we are able to comfort others because of the comfort we have received. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
I’m thankful for the promise of heaven for those who trust and believe in Jesus. The movie, Heaven is For Real, came out a short time after her passing, and it blessed us so much. Other books and testimonies have also helped strengthen our vision and understanding of what heaven is like. These things have greatly encouraged and comforted us.
God does not keep every bad thing from happening, but He is very much with us in our sorrow. He comforts, and strengthens, and helps us go on, even when—especially when—we think we cannot. And, that is worthy of thanksgiving.
Sara Faith Nelson is a retired teacher and aspiring writer. She writes devotions and blogs about her grief journey on her website, Sunshine for the Journey. Many have said they’ve been comforted and encouraged by her sharing. On her Facebook page, she enjoys passing on positive and hope-filled messages. She and her husband live in Arizona. Sara enjoys bird-watching, rock collecting, and adding to her collection of coffee mugs and tea cups.